This morning, at about 7:30am, just as my train rolled into the the JFK/UMass stop my ears perked up. Across the aisle and to the right of me stood, at least according to my observations, a middle-aged woman, though I’m willing to contend that she was actually much younger than she looked. She was missing her left leg and leaned against a crutches and grasped a bar for support as she pleaded with the man to her left. He was leaving her. In fact, it wasn’t clear that he was ever with her. After all, he had been with eleven or twelve mistresses and girlfriends. Even now he was on his way to meet one of them at South Station.
Why the woman recounted these facts to him, to her, and to the entire car—it was a truly public event—I couldn’t tell. Her voice was both angry and desperate. She wore a cream colored dress plastered over with a bold floral print and bunched up sock and sneaker. It looked like her nice dress, one that she surely prized above herself and brought out only when circumstances were especially proper or dire. “I’m telling you about the past—the past has nothing to do with today,” I heard her say.
Something stirred inside me. I couldn’t tell if I was going to cry or be sick. She clung to her msiguided and unfounded hopes, denying the consequence of her words even as she spoke them. She wouldn’t be happy with him anyway. He maintained his silence throughout her rant. His disinterest was palpable.
The man left at South Station, as planned. The woman continued at him until the very end. “And now you’re going to meet this women who’s had four abortions? You could’ve been with me, and we would’ve conceived right away,” she yelled at him. “And instead you choose this woman who’s had four abortions?” He left without speaking a word.
“Just go around smirking. That’s right, go around smirking,” she launched at one of the passengers once the doors closed and the train resumed its course. I didn’t look up.
She continued past South Station, past Park, past Central, finally leaving at Harvard. But all the while she stared, like the man had before, silently in space.